The Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup being consecrated by Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, assisted by Bishop Roy Sano (partially hidden) and Bishop Dr Hwa Yung. Standing behind him are his wife Catherine and son Luke.
The newly-minted Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup making his first address to the congregation.
THE SOUND OF BUGLES
was a rousing start to the Closing and Consecration Service of the 10th Session of the General Conference (GC) of The Methodist Church in Singapore (MCS), held at Paya Lebar Methodist Church (PLMC) on Dec 7, 2012. The Boys’ Brigade (BB) Stedfast Buglers were a special addition to the service, in commemoration of the consecration of the Rev Dr Wee Boon Hup as the 5th Bishop of the MCS.
The excitement of the congregation was palpable as it was a homecoming of sorts – the Rev Dr Wee had been the Pastor-in-Charge of PLMC from 1993 to 2005, and many members of the church remembered him fondly. Colourful congratulatory bouquets lined the corridors and added to the joyous atmosphere.
The Rev Dr Wee was presented to the Presiding Bishop, Bishop Dr Robert Solomon, by the three Annual Conference Presidents: the Rev Dr Chong Chin Chung, President of the Chinese Annual Conference; the Rev R. Prabhu, President of Emmanuel Tamil Annual Conference; and the Rev Dr Gordon Wong, President of Trinity Annual Conference.
The 10th Session of the GC, which concluded its work on Dec 6, saw the following elections: Mr Goh Geck Teck as Treasurer, Mr Melvin Dineshraj as Assistant Treasurer, and Ms Shanthi Jeremiah and Mrs Tan-Toh Peck Yin as Assistant Secretaries.
At the Closing Service, Bishop Dr Solomon asked the congregation members whether they would uphold the Rev Dr Wee in his ministry as bishop of the church, to which they replied: “With God’s help, we will!”
This commitment of church members to support their bishop is crucial, as Bishop Dr Solomon pointed out in his following sermon.
Drawing from Romans 15:14-33, he focused on the phrase “strive together with me” in Romans 15:30 (RSV), noting how it implied a holy passion and drive in the life of the apostle Paul, suggested that leadership in the church can be a lonely experience that longs for company especially in prayer, and could also hint that leaders cannot accomplish much without help from the rest.
What were the reasons for Paul’s passion in ministry? Bishop Dr Solomon suggested two reasons: the majesty of God and the mission of God.
The majesty of God was a common theme with Paul, who not only alluded to it in Romans 15:17 but also began his letters to the churches with great descriptions of God’s majesty. This awareness of the majesty of God was helpful to Paul as he ministered in a pagan world, requiring great effort and passion to turn the tide as he taught a radically new worldview, new habits, perspectives and values.
“In the globalised world we live in, the church faces immense stresses and influences from this world. It is in such a situation that we need leaders in the church who have a good sense of the majesty of God and who commit themselves to a declaration of that majesty and seeing it cherished, respected, and experienced in church,” said Bishop Dr Solomon.
He went on to point out that the majesty of God is magnified as a Christian walks close with God. Christian authority is based not on status or skills but on our relationship with Christ.
The out-going bishop urged Methodists in every church to pray for their bishops, Presidents and pastors, taking a leaf from our Anglican brothers and sisters in Christ who include such prayers in their liturgy.
This is part of the second motivation for Paul’s sense of urgency and drive, which is the mission of God – building up the church of Christ, creating Christian communities everywhere and building them into maturity.
“The mission of God,” said Bishop Dr Solomon, “is manifested by the membership of the church. The church is not a religious spa where we come to feel good, but the army of God and a company of servants and missionaries, who go out to serve and minister.”
It was no easy thing to be a bishop, he cautioned, “especially if on paper he is given a battleship to command, and in reality given a pair of oars to row a boat”. What makes the difference is the grace of God (v15-16), and that is why we must pray for the new Bishop – it is a spiritual battle we are fighting in, and those like the Bishop who serve in the forefront are easily attacked.
“In fact,” he added jocularly, “it is better to say you will pray for him rather than congratulate him. But you must commit to pray for him!”
The Rev Dr Wee was called forward again to reaffirm his vows as Bishop, acknowledging that Christ is the “Shepherd and Bishop of our souls”. As he knelt, the congregation prayed for him silently while his family members stood behind him in support.
Bishop Dr Solomon laid both hands on the Rev Dr Wee’s head, joined by the other participating bishops, Bishop Dr Hwa Yung from The Methodist Church in Malaysia and Bishop Roy Sano from the United Methodist Church.
A Bible was then given to the new bishop, who was addressed as Bishop Dr Wee Boon Hup. As he rose, he was warmly hugged by the Bishop Emeritus Dr Robert Solomon, who was conferred the title on his retirement by action of the General Conference during its 10th Session.
In his greetings to the congregation, Bishop Dr Wee thanked God for the opportunity to serve Him in the office of the Bishop, and praised Him for His grace and mercy.
He expressed appreciation to the pastors, leaders and staff of PLMC for hosting and assisting with the consecration service, adding that the venue held special meaning for him as PLMC was his first Christian community in which he lived and was nurtured. He also thanked the BB buglers, acknowledging that the BB had been a special support to him when he lost his father early in life.
Bishop Dr Wee affirmed the need for prayer, not just for him but also for all leaders, as he acknowledged the challenges ahead would be very great. He encouraged the congregation to be faithful in prayer, that “we may be found about our Father’s business”.
The Rev Dr Chong gave a speech in appreciation of Bishop Emeritus Dr Solomon, thanking him for his leadership and spiritual guidance, and particularly his ministry of teaching and preaching God’s Word, quoting from 1 Timothy 5:17 that he was “worthy of double honour”. He also thanked the retiring bishop for his ministry to the Methodist schools and kindergartens, in missions work, and in preserving social and religious harmony in Singapore’s society.
He presented a Bible in appreciation to Bishop Emeritus Dr Solomon, who invited his wife Malar to join him in accepting it.
The out-going bishop then performed his final duty, declaring the adjournment of the 10th Session of the GC. Bishop Dr Wee gave the benediction, following which a sumptuous supper was enjoyed by all.
Grace Toh is the Assistant Editor of Methodist Message.
Story: Grace Toh n Methodist Message pictures: Daniel Lie